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Mozambique’s President Mourns Cardinal Who “stood out for commitment to good of humanity”

Late Alexandre José Maria Cardinal dos Santos with President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The President of Mozambique has eulogized the country’s first Cardinal as a Catholic Church leader who was committed to the welfare of humanity.

Alexandre José Maria Cardinal dos Santos who was among the founders of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) succumbed to an illness in the Southern African nation on September 29 aged 97

In a Facebook Message issued September 30, Mozambique’s President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi says, “Mozambique has lost one of its best sons who stood out for his commitment to the good of humanity, regardless of social position, race or other forms of distinction.”

“His humanism, high sense of ethics and citizenship made Cardinal Alexandre a fighter of the world and for the world, who bet on the education of citizens as a means of promoting equality and fraternity among men and women,” he adds.

President Nyusi highlights some of the initiatives the late Cardinal facilitated in realizing saying, “It was imbued with these universal values that Cardinal Alexandre fostered the creation of Higher Education institutions of the Catholic Church, as well as the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady Mother of Africa of the Archdiocese of Maputo, which invest in humanistic education for the construction of an ever more just and harmonious world.”

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The Cardinal, the Mozambican leader says, also “embodies a great patriotic feeling by joining the pacification process in Mozambique, because he understood that brothers from the same country should not fight over issues that could be resolved through dialogue.”

“His work and legacy, built up over his long career, would not fit into a simple message,” President Nyusi continues in reference to the late Cardinal, and adds, “It is up to us to honour him and value his achievements, consolidating peace, harmony, equality and love of neighbour.”

During this time of sorrow, the President further says, “we wish to thank, on behalf of the Mozambican people, and in my own name, for all the sacrifice, teaching, patience and availability that Cardinal Alexandre always had for Mozambique, for the Mozambicans, forgetting himself in order to dedicate himself to the well-being of his other brothers.”

Cardinal Alexandre is expected to be laid to rest in Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Mozambique’s Maputo Archdiocese on October 7.

The Cardinal has been eulogized as a leader who was committed to the communion of the people of God and who fostered collaboration with other Church leaders.

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In a September 30 statement, the leadership of IMBISA recalled the Cardinal’s role in founding the regional forum of Catholic Bishops. 

“It is worth recalling that the deceased Cardinal is regarded as one of the founders of the Regional Episcopal Conference known as IMBISA. He was present at the inaugural meeting which took place in Pretoria, South Africa on the 24th April 1975,” officials of IMBISA Secretariat said.

They added, “We can thus always see in him a picture of a man dedicated to communion and collegiality, shunning all forms of unhealthy expressions of nationalism.”

On October 1, Pope Francis paid tribute to the late Cardinal in a condolence telegram sent to the Local Ordinary of Maputo, Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, a member of the Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M. Cap).

The Holy Father said, “Having received with sorrow the news of the death of brother Cardinal Alexandre José Maria dos Santos, I wish to express my solidarity to the bereaved family members and to all those, especially in the Archdiocese of Maputo, who have benefited from the service of this shepherd.”

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“To the Lord who guided him throughout his entire life, I entrust this tireless servant of the Gospel and the Church, asking him to be welcomed in the heavenly Jerusalem, to which I invite all those participating in the funeral liturgy for Dom Alexandre to raise their hearts,” Pope Francis added.

Born in March 1924, Cardinal Alexandre took his Solemn Vows in O.F.M. Cap. in 1951.

He was ordained a Priest in 1953, becoming Mozambique’s first native Catholic Priest.

In December 1974, the late Catholic Church leader was ordained Archbishop of Lourenço Marques, now the Archdiocese of Maputo, and ordained for the Episcopal See in March 1975.

Pope St. John Paul II elevated him to the rank of a Cardinal in June 1988, becoming Mozambique’s first Cardinal.

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He retired as Archbishop of Mozambique’s Maputo Archdiocese in February 2003, a month before his 79th birthday.

While serving as Archbishop of Maputo, the late Cardinal founded Caritas Mozambique and served as its first president.

He was also the founder of the Franciscans of Our Lady Mother of Africa, a female Religious Congregation.

Cardinal Alexandre also hosted Pope St. John Paul II when the Pontiff made his Apostolic visit to the country in 1988.